Okay. If you’re like me and you’ve gotten to a certain age, then you know what’s it’s like to get up from your desk, walk toward the kitchen intending to grab, say, an orange, only to get to the kitchen doorway and realize that you’ve forgotten why the hell you went there.
You know you’re there for a reason, but you can’t for the life of you remember what it was. So, you mumble to yourself, "Friggin’ idiot," and walk back toward your office.
Only halfway there, you suddenly remember what it was you wanted, so you do a quick one-eighty, head back to the kitchen —
— only to forget again.
This happens to me more often than I’d like to admit. And, yes, it’s true, I smoked a lot of pot when I was younger.
I don’t think it’s the pot, however. Just age. And I know people a decade younger than me (who never smoked a joint in their life) who have the same problem.
It’s scary, to say the least. I start thinking Alzheimer’s. A friend of mine calls it Sometimers.
But then Dr. Dean once described Alzheimer’s as not forgetting where you parked your car, but forgetting where you parked your car when you don’t have one.
When I was trying to come up with ideas for a blog post tonight, I decided to go the random route. Come up with two or three topics to discuss briefly. My wife was listening to me spitball these topics and I came up with a couple that I thought might be interesting.
Okay, not necessarily interesting. But I’m on a crazy close deadline for the new book and my mind is in a different place. So the topics were passable. Something to throw out to the group and let you guys have at it.
Anyway, five minutes and half a conversation later, I couldn’t remember one of the topics I’d decided on. Strained the brain trying to remember, but just couldn’t do it.
And guess what? Neither could my wife.
What the hell?
Fortunately, she did remember a few moments later and told me what it was.
I often worry, however, that such things are carrying over into my work. There will be times that I’m driving and I’m mulling over the new book and all of these wonderful ideas are bouncing around inside my head and I’m thinking, damn, I wish I had my digital recorder because I’d really like to get some of this down.
And of course, by the time I get back to my office, I’ve forgotten half of what it was that had gotten me so excited.
But then maybe that’s as it should be. A lot of stuff I think about as I’m driving is really useless garbage that just needs to be tossed out of the brain. A cleansing, of sorts. And whatever remains behind is the stuff I’ll actually use.
Paul Schrader, the writer of Taxi Driver, once said that he never writes an idea down when it first comes to him, because he figures that if it doesn’t stick, it isn’t worth remembering.
I can pretty much guarantee that I’ve forgotten more ideas than I’ve remembered. Some of them I even wrote down, only to discover them, years later, on some wrinkled piece of paper. And guess what? They truly, truly sucked.
What’s disconcerting, however, is when I find the beginning of a story I wrote a few years back and I cannot for the life of me remember writing it. It seems to have been written by someone else entirely, and while I recognize the handwriting or the typical way I arrange my sentences and paragraphs, I do not recognize it as my work.
As William Allman said, "The brain is a monstrous, beautiful mess."
And I certainly agree with… uh…
What was I about to say?
I suddenly have the sinking feeling that I’ve written about this very same subject in an earlier Murderati post.
Now on to those two not so spectacular topics:
1. In response to Allison’s recent post, I never look at the numbers. I don’t think about bestseller lists. I don’t WANT to know the numbers. In fact, the only numbers I DO want to know are the numbers on the checks my publishers send me. And as long as they keep sending them, I’ll be a happy man.
The reason I don’t want to know the numbers? Because they’ll color my work. If the numbers are bad, I’ll freak out and try to tailor my work for "the marketplace." I’ll start writing vampire stories because vampire stories are hot and surely that’s gotta bring those numbers up.
If the numbers are really good, I’ll get a false sense of confidence and either lose all perspective about the work, or I’ll keep writing the same crap over and over again because I know it’s what works. That might make my publisher happy, but it certainly won’t make me happy.
Instead, I ignore the numbers and write what I want to read — and hope that others will want to read it as well. This, obviously, is my own little quirk and does not apply to others.
2. Speaking of writing. What the hell am I doing wrong?
I’m in the middle of reading the latest book by one of my favorite authors and I have to say that I’m truly enjoying it. But I’m three-quarters of the way through and, frankly, NOTHING HAS REALLY HAPPENED.
I’m on page three-hundred-whatever, and the hero has engaged and amused me — and the writing is superb — but I can’t help thinking that by the time I’ve reached this point in one of my own books, A WHOLE HELLUVA LOT OF STUFF HAS HAPPENED.
Is that a problem? Should I start cutting back on the plot twists? Should I slow the pace down?
After all, this guy seems to know what he’s doing. And AGAIN, I’m really enjoying this book. So what gives?
Okay, that’s all I’ve got. I’m done with you. Spent.
Now it’s back to the new manuscript to once again try to remember how I was planning to end that new chapter.